Blog

Strengthening all parts of the village

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child – supportive parents, well-trained child care workers, friendly and knowledgable doctors and so many others provide the necessary help to get a child off to the right start in life. As we work to make sure all children start off on the right path, we’re looking at the problem from all sides.  That’s why we’ve been reaching out to pediatric fellows doing their training in the Austin area to make sure they understand what early childhood services are available in our community. The goal is to create greater awareness between doctors serving young children about all the other parts of the village, so more children can get the help they need.   “Thanks to this training, I’ve learned more about the importance of a child’s social history in advocating for their wellness.”  – Cory Henson, pediatric fellow Cory Henson is just one of nine fellows we’ve talked to this year. Originally from Houston, he says his decision to become a pediatrician stemmed from “my desire to be a voice and advocate for those that may not speak out for themselves,” the same reason we work so hard to advocate young children.   “As a resident, I have a very active role in managing care for young children. We are often identified as the primary face of the medical profession for families,” Cory told us. “Thanks to this training, I’ve learned more about the importance of a child’s social history in advocating for their […]

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A middle school perspective on leadership

On the surface, these students look like any other boys in the St. John’s neighborhood – Jose is a Webb Middle School student who likes video games and has lived in Austin all his life, Kevin is a freshman at Reagan High School who was born in Mexico and loves to play soccer. But they do something that makes them stand out from the pack: Kevin and Jose are actively changing their community at the ripe old ages of 11 and 15, respectively. We’ve been working with students like them for three years as part of our Target Graduation program. When we first partnered with campuses to saturate schools with the services that students need, we also adapted our Volunteer Project Leader program into a full-year course for middle school students, and over the past year, our Young Leader Society has been actively engaged with volunteer leaders at our three target middle schools. Kevin, Jose and 48 of their peers are making a difference by assessing what the needs are in their own school, putting together a plan to resolve those needs and leading their peers and YLS members to fix problems. This is Jose’s first year in the program, but Kevin’s been involved since it first started.  “I enjoy getting to help people in the community where I live. I feel like I’m making a change at home,” said Kevin to YLS member Kara Birge when she sat down with the boys last week. “I got to help people today […]

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18 years of volunteering in 2013

Each your, our Hands On Central Texas program helps thousands of volunteers to give their time and invest in our community. In 2013, these volunteers gave a staggering 161,000 hours of time – that’s the equivalent of 18 years of non-stop, day-and-night volunteering!  [cta][/cta] All told, our in-house team managed 10,000 volunteers during our Days of Caring (both Fall and Spring), MLK Day of Service and H-E-B’s Feast of Sharing. On top of that, handsoncentraltexas.org connected an additional 16,000 volunteers to meaningful opportunities in our community.  We also had to respond to a crisis in our community this year. The flooding in October 2013 left homes in ruin and many people unsure where to turn. In the aftermath, volunteers were need to help clear houses, sort donations and more. We took the lead as part of our membership in Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster and coordinated 14,000 hours of volunteer work to help the Dove Springs recover.  [cta][/cta] But 2013 was also the year that we saw even more growth in our exciting Volunteer Project Leadership program for middle school students – we expanded from one campus to three and helped 50 students learn how to lead volunteer projects, and they turned around and coordinated 183 volunteers over the year. It’s students like Niko at Webb Middle School who show us every day what it means to be a leader and inspire us to keep doing this work.  Of course, none of this would have been possible without YOU – the amazing volunteers, donors […]

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YLS & student leaders expand the Decker Middle School Garden!

Last month, a small group of volunteers gathered at Decker Middle School to work on the community garden.  We were current YLS members, new volunteering recruits and Volunteer Project Leader students.  One of the VPL leaders even invited a friend from another school to participate— as Julie commented, it truly is neat to see recruiting happening at that age! Standing on a large rock in the middle of the Decker Community Learning Garden, Annie and the student Leaders for the project welcomed the volunteers and described our task—to continue the work begun last year by the VPL class on the Decker Middle School Garden.  Volunteers quickly got to work on the various projects including:  painting the sign for the Decker Community Learning Garden, building two benches, digging holes for the sign and the benches, and making bags out of old banners. The most popular activity seemed to be the bag-making project.  Julie shared this project from Keep Austin Beautiful. This project involved donated banners, staples, and duck tape.  In addition to making bags for carrying the gardening tools, nearly all of the VPL students made at least one bag to bring home or to give to a friend.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these bags as the new “in” fashion in the Manor community. To conclude the event at Decker Middle School, Annie made the surprise announcement that we were going to have a cartwheel contest!  Congratulations Julie for winning the cartwheel contest. After saying our goodbyes to […]

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At 3M, WLC women are “true leaders”

Since 2003, the Women’s Leadership Council has worked to be “the most powerful female-driven philanthropic force in Central Texas” – and with more than 500 members investing in our community annually, it’s safe to say they’re delivering on that promise. At each of the 400+ companies that we work with locally, the WLC looks a bit different, adjusting to the culture and needs of that particular workplace.  Since it’s International Women’s Day, we wanted to find out what drives these incredibly giving women by talking to Judy Donigan, National Account Manager at 3M, about what’s working for them. The WLC group allows us to leverage the power of women and support efforts that are close to our heart.   – Michelle Diggs, 3M Marketing Manager & WLC Member JA Central Texas Board, Any Baby Can Advisory Board, Texas Civil Rights Division Commissioner What makes the WLC at 3M unique?  The WLC women at 3M are true leaders within our company.  They are successful in their different businesses and foster a sense of responsibility in giving back to our community.  Many of the women are board members of nonprofit organizations within the greater Austin area.  All of our members are committed to improving the lives of those with barriers to economic opportunity through our philanthropic efforts.    How many women are involved? Who has the WLC changed over time?  Twenty-four 3M women participate in activities with the Women’s Leadership Council. From my perspective, more 3M women are also taking additional leadership positions […]

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Challenge: stump our data

Just a few weeks ago, we released the 2013 Community Needs and Trends report for our community – and right away, nonprofits  throughout Greater Austin asked for a deeper dive into key elements of this treasure trove of data, including diapers and food needs. We also saw data released from other organizations that reinforced our findings. Here are the big answers, insights & details that came out of it all:  1. Both adult and child diapers are a key need in Greater Austin .@Austindiapers Data show diapers rank high on our list of unmet needs: pic.twitter.com/ZduYnHQZwo — United Way Austin (@uwatx) February 12, 2014 2. Data consistently show women are the majority of those looking for help From @CPPP_TX: Female-headed Texas working families that are low-income increased from 59% in 2007 to 61% in 2012: http://t.co/PXXipZT1Cj — United Way Austin (@uwatx) February 13, 2014 Our #data show women are the majority of those looking for help – & #childcare is a big concern. @MomsRising @CPPP_TX pic.twitter.com/Y6AxAig6FS — United Way Austin (@uwatx) February 19, 2014 3. Food needs vary seasonally but continue growing Capital Area Food Bank aggregated our data to show the growing food needs over the past few years and asked us to look into the effects of cuts to SNAP benefits in November.  .@CAFBTX We dug deeper – food needs spiked earlier in 2013 and bounced up in Dec, unlike in 2012. pic.twitter.com/LWryDF106n — United Way Austin (@uwatx) February 23, 2014   The more than 350K calls we answer […]

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Free tax prep is “the best thing I’ve ever come across”

In my work with UWATX, I’ve had the pleasure of helping thousands of Central Texans take a meaningful step towards financial security by opening bank accounts, encouraging savings and taking advantage of free tax prep. Recently, I got to speak with Sarah in La Grange who used myfreetaxes.com/uwatx (which is powered by H&R Block) to file her taxes for FREE.  Sarah had just gotten back in town from Brenham where she works at the State Supported Living Center. Sarah has been living in La Grange with her husband and three kids (10,4, and 2) for the last ten years.  She grew up in the city and always knew she wanted to raise her kids in a rural setting with good schools.  “It’s the best thing I’ve ever come across – I’ve encouraged all of my friends and family to prepare their taxes this way” – Sarah on myfreetaxes.com/uwatx How were you getting your taxes done before this? What changed?  I had been getting them done at retail tax preparers for years.  Last year, I paid $290 for my return. This year, they whipped it up  in what seemed like no time at all and then asked for $315 plus a $35 fee for direct deposit. I can’t afford that, I have a husband and three kids, so I got up and walked out.  What did you do then?   I reached out to Workforce Solutions in La Grange, TX and they connected me to the United Way service.  I sat down at a computer and […]

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Now that’s service: 60K State employees engage in philanthropy!

“I love  that monthly payroll deductions allow me to easily budget my charitable giving for the year. I can always give more outside of SECC if I wish to, but can still feel confident I’m doing my small part to make Austin and the world a little bit better.” – Mark Moore, Texas Real Estate Commission  As part of our work to build philanthropy in Austin, we are privileged to serve as the Employee Giving Campaign manager for the State campaign. We work with  60 thousand State employees in Greater Austin to invest in our community.  This past year, State employees in the Greater Austin area invested $2.1 million in their community through the annual State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), making 2013 the seventh consecutive year they have given more than $2 million.  “SECC is an easy and effective way to help state employees connect to nonprofits working on important issues that they care about,” said Janette Gibreal, Chair of the Capital Area SECC Local Employee Committee. “Through personal contributions, state employees can continue the wonderful work they do every day by investing in charities that are working hard to make Texas a great place to live and work.” Each year, we’re happy to celebrate the success of these amazing givers by recognizing agencies with outstanding results: State Agencies that made Austin greater in 2013:  Highest Per Capita Gift  1,500 and more employees – Comptroller of Public Accounts ($49.47) 500-1,500 employees – Teacher Retirement System ($223.97) – The Teacher Retirement System increased their per […]

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Partner Profile: Farmers Insurance Group

Name: Farmers Insurance Group   Partner for: 15 years   Partner for: Employee Campaign   Our relationship: Involving leadership to make a greater impact Farmers Insurance Group has supported United Way for Greater Austin for nearly 15 years, but has really ramped up their Employee Campaign in the past five. This year, as part of the 2013 Insurance Industry Challenge, Farmers took their involvement with UWATX to a whole new level. Vice President Jim Snikeris helped make this happen by inviting UWATX staff to  speak with employees and share the UWATX mission. UWATX Vice President of Resource Development Debbie McGee and Director of Business Development Beth Krueger also spoke at Farmers leadership meetings. The campaign wouldn’t have been such a huge success without Employee Campaign Leaders Brittany Ilse and Pana Redd, who helped facilitate over 15 Employee Campaign meetings! During the campaign, Farmers set up a table onsite sporting UWATX items including water bottles, pens, and of course pledge forms. Service Point Director Garth Davis encouraged giving by spending time at the table on the company’s first day of campaign, and by being one of the first people to give. He was also one of the first employees to contribute to the Makes Austin Greater wall on display during Employee Campaign – donors wrote their names on Makes Austin Greater stickers, creating a colorful philanthropy wall! Farmers employs best practices: Running a UWATX Branded Campaign Connecting with UWATX outside of Campaign Working to engage HOCT in upcoming volunteer efforts for 2014 […]

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Taxes made easy as one, two, free

With more and more people working multiple jobs to make ends meet throughout the year, preparing your taxes can be overwhelming and time consuming. I myself had a few side jobs in 2013. With five W-2 statements and a few 1098-E forms, I wanted a second look at my return.  I was looking forward to using my tax return to pay off a few bills and start saving, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t overpay for tax preparation. There are so many choices  for  tax preparation and I quickly realized that most charge a fee of some sort.  Since I was looking forward to using my tax return to pay off a few bills and start saving for the future, I wanted to make sure I didn’t overpay for this service. While watching KXAN one morning, I heard about a Community Tax Center (CTC) that offered free tax preparation for eligible families. I quickly went online to find out the requirements and how I could take advantage of free tax preparation. Community Tax Centers, a program of Foundation Communities that is supported by UWATX, provides free tax preparation for households making up to $50,000, with the income limits being slightly higher for households of five or more.    I made an appointment with a Community Tax Center near me. With my Tax Prep Checklist provided by CTC and documents in hand, I headed to the east Austin location.  During the quick and easy check-in process the Intake Volunteer […]

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